Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Shift Happens - part 1

Apologies for the lack of posting over the last week but I have just been taking a breather from the blog now we have come to the end of the Anniversary Season and before we kick back off again preparing for the brand-new, spangly Autumn Winter 2008 Season.

Anyway, last week I was lucky enough to attend an rather marvellous Technology and Digital Conference Shift Happens - get me! Over the day a variety of speakers regaled tales of Web 2.0 and other technological and environmental changes that are occuring and what they mean for the arts. It was such a valuable and interesting day I thought it might be worth writing a bit about each of the speakers / presentations here over the next week or so.

WARNING: there may be gushing - it was a great day and I would love to thank those that organised it immensely! So thanks Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal and Arts Council - I doff my cap....

First up was Tom Fleming. Tom, in his capacity as a Creative Consultant, has recently written a report on 'The case for 'mixed art-form and media venues' in the digital age' which explores the role of 'bricks and mortar' infrastructures (buildings to me and you) in a digital context. Now some of what he was saying went over my head (it was early on in the proceedings, I was somewhat distracted by the rather beautiful auditorium of York Theatre Royal and I hadn't had my caffeine fix for the day) but here are the things I have picked out - the salient points you might say. Tom, if I have misrepresented you then I am deeply apologetic!

His focus was mainly, as the title of his report suggests, around mixed art-form/media venues such as FACT (Liverpool), Broadway (Nottingham), Watershed (Bristol), Showroom (Sheffield) Tyneside Cinema (Gateshead) and Manchester's own Cornerhouse and how these organisations are increasingly becoming creative hubs in a true Web 2.0 context - the audiences are encouraged to become the creators.

These organisations not only provide stimulation and inspiration by way of an interesting programme they provide space (cafes , bars, meeting places) and facilities (multi-media suites, equipment hire, free wifi) for people to connect (actually or digitally), collaborate (this tends to happen quite organically when different people come together in a creative space) and create their own work. This then feeds back into their programme by offering these creators opportunities to showcase their work either online or via various film and new media festivals.

As Tom describes it these venues become brokers for creative endeavour, allow people to contribute on a community and civic level and potentially become drivers behind the creative economy....or something! As per Tom's presentation Antony Lilley says it much better:

“Whilst traditional media technologies primarily concentrate on the distribution of ideas, the
interactive media technologies are concerned with handing active control and the ability to
communicate to citizens.”

(Antony Lilley in Ofcom’s 2007 discussion paper on Public Service Content)

Although, it isn't necessarily supported by increasing provision of technological facilities at the Octagon in our own lo-fi way, we are also enabling creativity and encouraging the audiences to become the contributors through the work of the marvellous activ8. They provide the stimulus and facilitate the creative expression of their attenders. These audiences were given the opportunity recently to become performers at the recent activ8 Showcase where they had the opportunity to express their ideas or should I say 'art' on the Octagon's main stage. I will talk more about this at a later date as I am wandering off topic rather.....

The other interesting point that stood out to me, is how these venues often become the focal point around which local regeneration takes place. I guess this resonated with me further to plans for the regeneration of Bolton Town Centre and particularly the area around the Octagon which is known as the Innovation Zone! Perhaps a ripe opportunity for the Octagon to start offering a wider range of digital facilities to the local community. A thought anyway! Love the thought of the next Brecht or Naughton conceiving his first masterpiece over a cup of tea and a teacake in the Spotlight Cafe... seeing some of the characters that come into the Octagon there is material for a play right there!
Anyway, I am sure I have just scratched the surface here. If you are interested in reading more you can have a look at Tom's presentation here.


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